Cultural Differences in Psychological Reactance: Responding to Censorship


People believe that they are free to engage in reasonable behaviors. When this freedom to act is taken away from an individual, s/he would experience psychological reactance, a “motivational state directed toward the re-establishment of the free behaviors which have been eliminated or threatened with elimination” (Brehm, 1966). Censorship can be considered as a form of restriction of freedom to fully access information and hence should result in psychological reactance (Worchel & Arnold, 1973). In the present research, we examined cultural differences in psychological reactance in response to a threat of social media censorship among Iranian-Canadians (n = 75), European-Canadians (n = 132), and East-Asian-Canadians (n = 87). Participants read a passage on promoting social media censorship, purportedly written by a first-year university student (low threat condition) or the Canadian Government (high threat condition), randomly assigned. Participants then completed a measure of psychological reactance (e.g., “I think people should have the right to information”), the Self-Construal Scale (Singelis, 1994), and answered some questions about their censorship experience. Results revealed an interaction between Culture and Threat on psychological reactance, p = .01. In the high threat condition only, Iranian-Canadians (vs. European-Canadians and East-Asian-Canadians) exhibited more psychological reactance, p = .01, and this cultural difference was mediated by experience with censorship, p < .05. Results are consistent with the notion that Iranians have more experience with restriction of information access and repression of freedom, and thus have a heightened sensitivity to freedom threat when it came from a powerful source.

Author Information
Andy H. Ng, York University, Canada
Mohammad S. Kermani, York University, Canada
Richard N. Lalonde, York University, Canada

Paper Information
Conference: ACP2015
Stream: Qualitative/Quantitative Research in any other area of Psychology

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon